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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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State transportation budget includes sought-after improvements on I-90 in Liberty Lake and Spokane Valley

Harvard Road overpass as seen from the south side of I-90. It will be widened to add a northbound lane. (Nina Culver / The Spokesman-Review)
Harvard Road overpass as seen from the south side of I-90. It will be widened to add a northbound lane. (Nina Culver / The Spokesman-Review)

New road construction projects are coming to Interstate 90 in Liberty Lake and Spokane Valley. They are intended to ease congestion issues and make north-south travel a bit easier in the two communities.

The recent transportation budget approved by the state Legislature contained $20.9 million for the widening of the Harvard Road Bridge over Interstate 90, the construction of a new I-90 overpass at Henry Road in Liberty Lake and building a roundabout on Barker Road at the I-90 westbound on- and off-ramps.

The plans for the projects are still preliminary, including how much money each project will get, said Liberty Lake City Engineer Scott Bernhard. “There’s more unknown than there is known,” he said.

The state had originally planned to fund the projects in 2029 but a concerted lobbying effort convinced them to move up the crucial improvements, Bernhard said. “It’s not really new funding,” he said. “They just changed when it would be available to us.”

Though both Liberty Lake and Spokane Valley are involved, the projects were awarded funding as a group because they all involve I-90. “It’s all one construction project in DOT’s eyes,” he said.

The city plans to move forward with designing its projects and acquiring new right-of-way as soon as possible, Bernhard said.

The Harvard Road overpass will be widened to accommodate two northbound lanes. Traffic currently backs up and the new lane will allow easy access to westbound I-90. The project also includes improvement of the westbound I-90 on-ramp at Harvard, but the design is not finished yet, Bernhard said.

The options include variations of restriping the on-ramp or lengthening it to make merging onto the freeway easier. The current looping turn at the beginning of the ramp will stay, Bernhard said. “The ramp’s configuration will be the same, it will just change the length.”

The project should be built in 2020, Bernhard said. The city anticipates moving forward with plans to resurface the overpass this summer, he said. “It’s totally worth it,” he said.

The Henry Road overpass is a more complicated project simply because Henry Road doesn’t exist at I-90. The road will have to be extended so it will connect Country Vista Drive south of I-90 and Mission Avenue north of the freeway.

The city will have to purchase right-of-way to extend the road, and the construction itself will take time, Bernhard said. “I think it will be a two-season (project),” he said. “Ideally we’ll have it out to bid in early 2021.”

Spokane Valley Fire Department Fire Chief Bryan Collins said he’s pleased the projects were moved up, particularly the Henry Road overpass.

“I think we would have eventually gotten the overcrossing, but sooner rather than later is better for us,” he said.

The department built its new station at Country Vista and Henry Road because leaders knew an overpass was planned there, Collins said. It’s directly across the freeway from the River District, the city’s fastest growing area.

“There’s a significant amount of growth that’s going to take place on the north side,” he said.

Calls will increase in the River District, and fire crews will need easy access, Collins said. “It will give us quick access to the north side,” he said. “That will bring our response times down dramatically.”

Currently the only ways to get across I-90 are at Barker and Harvard Roads. Collins said he often worries about the Harvard Road overpass being taken out of commission by an oversized truck hitting it. “If we were to lose that access that really limits our ability to get to the north side,” he said.

The new Henry Road overpass will also benefit the Central Valley School District, which is building a high school on the south side of the freeway and a middle school on the north side.

“It’s perfect for them,” Bernhard said. “That’s what’s so exciting about this. It benefits so many people.”

Bernhard said he doesn’t know how much the city’s projects will cost. “It all depends on construction costs,” he said. “We really don’t know enough yet to know what the city’s cost will be.”

Bernhard said he’s thrilled to be moving forward with the projects. “This is a great opportunity for the city,” he said. “We would have had to live with the current conditions for another 10 or more years. The local legislators really went to bat for us as well as the DOT.”

One thing that sets the projects apart is that Liberty Lake, the Spokane Valley Fire Department and the Central Valley School District all worked together to lobby the Legislature to fund the projects in Liberty Lake.

“It paid off, which is great,” Collins said. “That’s really what made it effective. It was really an odd collection for a single issue like that.”

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